Appalachian State football

BOONE — Five days into Appalachian State’s fall camp, head coach Eliah Drinkwitz’s focus remains on building a strong foundation.

App State is closing in on its 2019 opener against East Tennessee State and Drinkwitz’s first game as the program’s head coach, but there will be time later this month to shift some of the attention to planning for a specific opponent. For now, it’s about identifying and developing a team “DNA” with a mixture of new players and coaches.

“We definitely know who we are,” Drinkwitz said. “This first week of camp is foundation week. You’re trying to establish the foundation on both sides of the ball and special teams.”

The Mountaineers showed off some off their athleticism on offense Aug. 6, while the defensive backs made a few nice plays in coverage and the linebackers delivered an eye-opening hit or two in 11-on-11 work. Not to be outdone, offensive guard Ryan Neuzil displayed his physicality with a crushing block during drill work against the defensive linemen.

That group has a familiar leader in coach Shawn Clark, who is entering his fourth season as an assistant at his alma mater, and plenty of returning talent in the form of experienced players such as Neuzil, Vic Johnson, Noah Hannon, Baer Hunter and Cole Garrison.

“I think we’re doing pretty well,” Garrison said of the team’s start to fall camp. “We have plenty of stuff to work on, but I think we’re definitely making improvements — I know I’m fixing certain issues. We’re coming together as a line as we play more together.”

That’s the case across the board as players adjust to new wrinkles with a new-look staff, but there are also adjustments for the coaches as the Mountaineers continue forward with things that have worked well in the past.

That combination is shaping the DNA of the 2019 team. Five days into camp, there’s noticeable progress.

“You can see it on the field, we’re operating more efficiently,” Drinkwitz said, “and we’re operating with a better understanding of what we’re supposed to be doing.”

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